tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN May 12, 2017 12:00am-1:01am PDT
and built a state-of-the-art gas operations center. we can never forget what happened in san bruno. that's why we're working every day to make pg&e the safest energy company in the nation. breaking news, president trump at odds with his own white house. this is cnn tonight. i'm don lemon. the president saying he was going to fire james comey with or without a recommendation from rod rosenstein. for those keeping score at home that comes after vice president pence, kellyanne conway and sanders had all insisted the president fire comey only after rosen stein recommended it. plus, the kremlin trolling the
white house with these pictures. the president tells nbc news, what, me, worry? >> but when i spoke with putin he asked me whether or not i would see lavrov. now, should i say no i'm not going to see him? >> let's get right to cnn's senior political commentator and the chief investigative correspondent for yahoo news. as you watched that interview was there anything that changed your mind or clarified to you the position on the white house in firing james comey sm. >> it only further clouded the issue. >> why are you laughing too, david? >> well, i mean, you know, that was an absurd -- these last four -- even with donald trump stuff, these past 48 hours was really extraordinary.
i can't help but think that the worst job on the plant is to be a spokes person for donald trump because invariably you get out there on the ledge or on the branch and the branch gets cut off behind you. he's sent people out there to tell a story yesterday and then he went on national television and said well, that really wasn't true. >> he contradicted his own staff. why are you laughing as well? >> it isn't funny and you know, look, we still don't know whether any federal crimes were committed in relation to the russia -- russian meddling by anybody in the trump orbit, but if there was a playbook for how to act guilty, donald trump is -- is taking every page from that playbook. he's told the story today that contradicts about his firing of the guy in charge of the investigation that contradicts what his own people had said.
that is almost certainly going to be contradicted by the people involved, you know, we haven't yet heard jim comey's account of his conversations with donald trump. >> we've heard an account from people who have spoken to the new york times. >> there isn't anybody who thinks that jim comey's account is going to match with the president has just said and he surely knows that and jim comey is going to be placed under oath and he will testify about his conversation. >> let's talk a little bit about that conversation. this was shortly after the inauguration. they write in part, quote, as they ate they made small talk about the election. the president then turned the conversation to whether mr. comey would pledge his loyalty to him. mr. comey declined to make that pledge. instead he has recounted to others. he told mr. trump that he would
always be honest with him, that he was not reliable in the conventional political sense. so i have to ask you, jake tapper is also reporting on this loyalty factor. what does that tell you about what trump's approach is to this investigation in the earliest days of his presidency? >> well, look, i think it speaks more broadly to trump's approach to institutions generally. he thinks that everyone in the government should be subservient to him, that everyone should owe their loyalty to him. that's not the way our democracy works. it's certainly not the way the fbi was set up to work. it's the reason fbi directors were given 10-year terms so he just fundamentally i understands what his own authorities are and what the -- what the role of others are in all of this. and you know, it is shocking given what -- what -- even what had taken place to that point
that donald trump would have that conversation with jim comey, and clearly he felt that the fbi director should not be surfacing stuff that is -- was damaging to him. that's not the way -- there's no one in a democracy in our democracy is above the law. presidents have tested that in the past and our democracy has held, he doesn't seem to appreciate that principle. >> and here's what i want to ask you because that conversation that -- again, shortly after the inauguration, sally yates met with white house counsel and said that michael flynn was compromised. this is for you, michael. that was on january 26th and then january 27th is the date that they -- that the president supposedly had this dinner with james comey and then asked him to pledge his loyalty. >> right. >> does that -- is that fishy to
you? >> first of all, what's fishy is you took 18 days from sally yates' warning to the firing of michael flynn. the rosenstein memo. the sessions letter and the president's fires of comey are all dated the same day, may 9th. so that was the first tell that the initial account that the president was simply responding to the recommendation of rod rosenstein was suspicious. didn't make sense that you would fire the fbi director, you know, the very -- the same day you get a memo and a letter just like that with no further discussion with no further explanation or accounting, but i mean, you just put on top of that, i mean, the conduct cited in the rosenstein
both then candidate trump and then senator sessions had praised at the time. senator sessions had said jim comey had no choice but to write that october 28th letter informing the congress about the revisiting of the hillary clinton investigation. >> and he cites that as a reason. yeah, i want to -- >> don, i -- yeah, but i get the point you're making which is was -- was trump alerted to the fact that something was happening here and was he trying to recruit comey to be loyal rather than stir the pot on some of the -- on the growing concerns he had about this investigation. i want to make a separate point based on what michael said which is the 18-day gap because the interesting thing about it was there was no reason to believe that had the washington post not surfaced the fact of this sally yates' meeting with the white
house counsel 18 days earlier or however when the story surfaced whether -- whether michael flynn would have been fired. and you know, the president is rabid and he talked about it again in the interview about leaks. had there not been a leak michael flynn might be the national security advisor. >> that was part of the reporting too, he was frustrating that it wasn't centering on leaks. >> a separate story, but not this one. >> i'm not sure it was only the leak to provoke the white house to get rid of flynn when they should have fired him as soon as sally yates reported on the information that she had. >> and just to add to that, the idea that the president or anybody in the white house would be pressuring the fbi about
particular investigations such as leak investigations, why aren't you investigating these leaks is a violation of every rule that -- and established practice about how the white house shouldn't be interfering in particular criminal investigations. i mean, that's the way things have been understood for many, many years now, and there have been, you know, white house regulations that affirm this, justice department regulations that affirm this, so you know, that in and of itself, the very fact that the president was saying why aren't you doing these leak investigations is -- is questionable on its face. >> and inappropriate. >> thank you gentlemen. don't miss the axe files. saturday night 9:00 eastern. make sure you tune in. when we come back, the president
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president trump contradicting his own white house and reigniting an old twitter feud tonight. i want to bring in historians and senior political analyst david. it's been an incredibly tumultuous last 24 hours. do you think this white house thinks we fell off the turnip truck? >> well, a lot of us, i've been thinking about this too. first of all, i don't think that donald trump is afraid of the media and i -- you know, richard nixon and david can tell us more about that, i guess, but richard
nixon was careful about lying. i mean, he lied, but he had other people lie for him. his worst lies in -- in the white house were actually initially statements. he didn't even say them. by the end of the administration he starts to lie to the american people directly when he's i'm not a crook. >> but is lying to the american people and the white house -- >> but you know, when the fact that the conology has changed about why comey was fired. i don't think the president cares that he's been contradicting himself because normally if a leader would worry that people would say sir, we can't believe you, how -- why can't you explain these incon sis t -- inconsistencies. >> i don't know i think he cares. do we have the quote for
politico? even though some of his staff believed it was a bad idea and gave his answers off the cuff. one person who spoke to him said he had been fixated on news coverage and believed his press team was failing him and needed to take the situation into his own hands. was that a good for him to do? >> no, of course not. donald trump's obsessive about watching cable tv. all he does is quarterback it and it's cost him nothing but trouble, but he can't help himself. in many ways he's like a character in the crime and punishment. only donald trump knows where the guilt is in all of this but the hound dogs are after him and so he tries to destroy, lie, whatever he can to get people off his set including firing head of the fbi. so where we're at now is donald
trump's worried about what does i think lieutenant mike flynn know and will flynn do an immunity agreement or plead guilty to a small misdemeanor, but will he talk? will he say i got marching orders from donald trump to deal with asaj, to communicate with russia on wiki leaks. he behaves like a guilty man trying to get away with a crime and the press for him is the enemy because they're the ones that are relentless. >> whether you think that -- have you ever seen a presidency that has had or a president that's had such a crediblity problem? and i'll preface it by reading something in the new york times about the trump administration contradictions surrounding james comey, the firing there.
he says, this is in part, truth be told, the inses isn't lying and the apparatus he has built many the white house means that nothing they say is to be believed anyway. but this of a different nature. this says to america, i'm going to tell you a lie that is so outrageous that you will want to believe that some part of it is true to preserve your faith in truth, democracy and man kind. what do you think of that? >> striking, isn't it? listen, don, we've had examples of presidents lying to the public on a consistent basis now for at least a generation. lynn don johnson lied to us about the vietnam war. he didn't have a credibility gap. he had a canyon and then came nixon and he lied to us about the vietnam war as well. about cambodia but also lied about water gate and it brought
him down. and now we face in donald trump someone who is i think is a f fabulist and we've witnessed one of the most remarkable episodes in public life. and that is an administration that created a cover story about why they fired james comey. they blamed it on the justice department. they brought us an investigation and we went along with it. that entire story has unravelled in 48 hours and now we're left with an administration that is searching for new ways to explain things. i mean, what's different about this administration from johnson and nixon is this is a very incompetent group of liars in the white house today. but i do think it's equally dangerous to the public and the question is, in the johnson case and in the nixon case, the public rose up and they were chased out of office by their
political friends as well as their enemies. will this happen again now? or is the country going to say -- simply say, this is donald trump? >> i think the country is so divided along political lines and i think charles is right in this last part where he says this says to america, i am going to tell you a lie that is so t outrageous that you will want to believe part of it. i think some people want to believe what he says has credibility so that they will -- i think he's right. they're reaching. when something -- when there is no basis in truth at all, they will make an excuse for this president and i think it's interesting you called him a fabulist when he said that james comey was a show boater in the interview. watch this. >> look, he's a show boat. he's a grand stander, the fbi has been in turmoil, you know
that, i know that. everybody knows that. you take a look at the fbi a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. less than a year ago. it hasn't recovered from that. >> monday you met with the deputy attorney general rosenstein. did you ask for a recommendation? >> what i did is i was going to fire comey. my decision. it was not -- >> you had made the decision before they came in the room? >> i was going to fire comey. there's no good time to do it, by the way. >> in your letter you said i accepted their recommendation. >> oh, i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. >> tim? >> yes. well, he's -- i don't know whether he'd be very good at keeping a long cover story. we're going to find out, but donald trump is a salesman, and he's trying to sell a product and when he can't sell it one way he'll find another way to sell it. what's really key here is this issue of his expectation of
personal loyalty. you know, when you're in the federal government, you pledge allegiance to the constitution. that's the oath to the constitution, not to the president. i don't think donald trump understands that and donald trump is sharing with the public his limited understanding of our democracy. coe plea was going exactly the right thing by making clear to him that he's loyal to the constitution. >> timothy and i were talking during the break, i've read the larger piece in time magazine where he talked about his phone which is a scrambler and he talks about the majesty of the white house and what it's like, and i -- you know, again, i don't -- i don't mean to be facetious about this but almost as if he has never gone to the white house. maybe he hasn't. you the take a tour or he's never seen photographs of the white house that show the majesty of the white house.
it's just like everything is happening for him right now. he's learning about all of this right now. >> it's sad to say that that's true. he has a zero knowledge of america's past. he was all about now, now, now making money. he's admitted that he doesn't read books on history. he has an attention deficit disorder. he has to get his -- his history or anything in like mcnuggets, but more than that, when we're constantly calling lies it's just who donald trump is as a person and i think don, that he's counting on fatigue. reporters are going to get tired. the public is going to tune out. it's like the coyote and the warner brothers cartoons. you know. the road runner goes and the coyote can't get him and he sees that he's going to outfox us by just hanging in there. if you tell ten lies a day, the first 100 days he had something like 485 documented lies. how do you -- how do you stop
somebody who keeps doing that unless you break them with the law. >> kbu if reporters go into war zones, go into syria, they are -- they come into some very dangerous situations. they're not going to be afraid of doing a story about the president. i mean, this is -- this is what we do. >> that's right. don, a couple of things here, don, i think are in play right now. first of all, given the last 48 hours, and given in particular not only the white house invent a cover story but we have an attorney general who had recused himself, who had promised the senate upon his nomination that he would no longer be involved in the -- he would not have anything to do with the russian investigation as attorney general and here he is in the oval office with the president early many the week planning this out. now, i -- people haven't focused on that. it does seem to me he's broken
the terms of that unless there's something we don't understand so it would be good to hear from him. but the other broader question is not only who donald trump is, the question becomes who are we as americans? what do we -- what values do we hold? are we willing to accept a white house that has such an utter contempt for the rule of law that is willing to invent tales? i think this goes basically to our value as a people. it's not only about the president. it's about us as american citizens and what we expect out of our leaders. >> that's going to have to be the last word. when we come back attorneys general across the country calling for investigators to oversee the investigation. we'll talk to two of them.
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but we've got the get tdigital tools to help. now with xfinity's my account, you can figure things out easily, so you won't even have to call us. change your wifi password to something you can actually remember, instantly. add that premium channel, and watch the show everyone's talking about, tonight. and the bill you need to pay? do it in seconds. because we should fit into your life, not the other way around. go to xfinity.com/myaccount president trump saying there was no collusion with russia calling it a made up story but attorneys general across the country a calling for a special prosecutor to take over the
investigation. let's discus now with the attorney general of the district of columbia and douglas chin, attorney general of hawaii. good evening. thank you so much for coming on. carl i'll start with you. >> good evening. >> you are both among 20 state and district attorneys general who have signed a letter asking rod rosenstein to appoint an independent special counsel to investigate russia's attempts to meddle in the election. >> the simple reason is that we're concerned that the investigation of the russian meddling and whether there was any collusion on the part of the trump campaign needs to have an independent prosecutor, a prosecutor who was not partisan, a prosecutor who was not political. that's the only way we'll get to the bottom of this. that is the only way we'll restore confidence in the american people about the legal
process and the rule of law. i can tell you that i had occasion to work in the clinton white house at a time when there were seven independent counsel and one special counsel, all courageously appointed by the then attorney general janet reno. she did the right thing because she needed to make sure those investigations were run and managed by the people that the president could not fire. >> douglas, the group is led by massachusetts attorney general and she called president trump's firing of fbi director james comey, she said it was a violation of public trust. how does this violate public trust? >> well, you know, i think the number one thing that people expect is they expect that the people who are in law enforcement are going to be fair and impartial. look, i've been a prosecutor for
more than 15 years and the number one rule in any sort of investigation that is successful is for people to feel like whatever is the result of that came about from -- from an investigation that was fair and impartial. and i think that's the reason why we're asking for an independent counsel and really expecting that because i think the public expects that. look, we just had so many different stories that we've just heard in the last 48 hours having to do with the fbi director's firing and it all ties into just the allegations and the investigation of russian meddling and everything else taking place. >> people don't know what to believe. so let me just ask you. let's get to the central question here. do you think he was trying to impede or stop the investigation? >> well, there's no doubt that the motivation was to take out the lead investigator. and in our experience, i can
tell you that the potential subject or at least somebody who was material to an investigation does not have the opportunity to fire or remove the investigator. this is basic investigation rule of law 101. and unfortunately the president doesn't seem to understand that we're a country of laws that relies on a check and balance and candidly, don, as you've seen, unfortunately we're not seeing much courage out of the republican party in washington. they know that eventually there will be a special counsel. i urge them to act honestly and courageously tonight and go ahead and do what's right. >> you have gone up against president trump before with the travel ban. why was it important for you to stand up again with this? >> sure. you know, i think that this is a -- obviously i think what we can all see is it's been a rather incredible several weeks that we've all been living
through and when you see what happens -- like what happened here in the last days with the fbi director's firing, this is something that really cuts against just -- just what we all have understood. the united states to be all about. what you have is you have the person being investigated getting rid of the person who was investigating him and i think the result of that is that no one's going to believe what is the results of what -- what this allegations -- what these allegations are all about until we have someone who is fair and someone who is independent and impartial, able to look at this and give us a result that we can all believe in. >> let me ask you because during the travel ban you said it is always in the public's interest to protect constitutional rights. do you think we're on the verge of a constitutional crisis? >> a lot of people say that and
the reason why they do say that and i believe it's very credible is that what you have is you have the chief executive making calls that are -- that are going into the other branches of government and violating them and i think that that's when you do have questions of, you know, are we even following our constitution anymore and you know, for us as -- as state attorneys general, i think it's our responsibility to say something about that because that's what the public sis expecting. they want to be living under the american values that we have all come to believe and respect. >> and if i could add, don, the principle is simple. no one is above the law and what we have right now and we're seeing it live every single day, every single moment with every changed story, with every false narrative that the president of the united states sadly is acting as if he is above the
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diplomats. photos taken and posted by russia's news agency. here to discuss, matthew murray, deputy assistants secretary and freelance journalist, a russian media expert and former kgb spy. good evening. matthew, to you first. so white house officials caught off guard, infuriated that the russians tweeted out photos of president trump smiling and shaking hands, complaining that the russians tricked them and that they lie. what are your thoughts on this? >> well, you know, due to the firing of comey, the timing of this visit and the planning of it was always going to be a bit awkward and i think the whole series of events highlights the fact that the trump administration is paralyzed on foreign policy towards russia. they should have anticipated for example that the russians would
certainly want to highlight the importance of this visit back home. they -- the administration clearly underestimated how important it is for putin to have this strong connection with the united states, that it confers legitimacy on him at home and that it's very important to his domestic politics and so, you know, here we are and trump is in his home court. it's a visit to the white house. it's standard operating procedure to invite a foreign minister over. president putin had done a similar courtesy for our secretary of state who was in moscow last april and they should have had an announcement, something they could say that represented diplomatic progress on syria, ukraine, north korea, something of that nature and this is a win. we're working with russia on national security issues and all
this other poor symbolism and planning would be much less important. >> and liz, president trump posted the following. russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the u.s. tears itself apart over a democratic excuse for losing the election. if the russians are laughing it's certainly at our experience, is it not? >> well, if the russians are laughing it probably has something to do with their meddling in our elections and the huge payoff they've received from their meddling in our elections. we know from our u.s. intelligence agencies that russia had meddled in the elections with the intent to defeat hillary clinton and to get trump elected and well, they've gotten more than they bargained for and today was the ultimate propaganda victory for the clem lykremlin. they got into the oval office which there hasn't been a high level meeting like that since
2013 because of the isolation, because of the wars in you crane and russia's backing of assad and syria and the alleged war crimes there and here they had meddled in our elections and then they have these glowing photos with trump grinning with both the foreign minister and ambassador who was at the center of the investigations and -- and -- the u.s. media was not allowed in. only russian media was allowed in. >> you can't write this. it's unfathomable. when these photographs came out yesterday, you know, got a text from a friend who -- who works in government, he's a military person and he says i wonder how many bugs they dropped in the oval office. because there was a lot of uproar that a russian photographer was allowed in the oval office. former intelligence officials feel that there was potentially
a breach in security here. do you think the security to the oval office was compromised yesterday? >> sure, to some extent. i -- i -- i'm shaking my head at the incompetence of the staff, the trump staff that is supposed to like protect the integrity of the white house and that's why i spoke to you before we came on and said the wheels are coming off. it's mind boggling. when i heard about this, you know, when i saw these photographs, i did a little bit of research and you know, we have -- we have history here. roosevelt was played by stallings. there's some very happy pictures between roosevelt and stallen. they've underestimated the cleverness of the russians. they are very clever.
we are somewhat naive when it comes to this. >> what kind of information could the russians glean from a trip to the oval office. >> are you asking me? >> yes. >> if you -- if you want to go into james bond territory there's always a chance that somebody actually drops something and you know, plants a bug in some way. other than that, you know, there's nothing there. i think it's more about the propaganda victory and having all the happy faces. >> stick around, panel. much more to discuss when we come back. we'll be right back. ♪
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(i've done every night isince i was a kid,hing empty my pocket change into this old jar. it's never much, just what's left after i break a dollar. and i never thought i could get quality life insurance with my spare change. neither did i. until i saw a commercial for the colonial penn program. imagine people our age getting life insurance at such an affordable rate. it's true. if you're 50 to 85, you can get guaranteed acceptance life insurance through the colonial penn program for less than 35 cents a day, just $9.95 a month. there's no medical exam and no health questions. you know, the average cost of a funeral is over $8,300. now that's a big burden to leave your loved ones. add to that credit card balances and final medical bills,
and you've got plenty of reasons to call for free information about this valuable coverage. it's easy and affordable to help cover your final expenses through the colonial penn program. as long as you're 50 to 85 you cannot be turned down because of your health. your premium never goes up and your benefit never goes down due to age. plus, your coverage builds cash value over time, money you can borrow against. so don't wait, call now for free information and a free gift. all i did was make a phone call and all of my questions about the colonial penn program were answered. it couldn't have been any easier and we both got the coverage we should have had for years now. mm-hm, with change to spare. (laughing)
(colonial penn jingle) for something that finally relieves your pain, icyhot lidocaine. desensitizes aggravated nerves with the max strength lidocaine available. icyhot lidocaine. president trump had a simple explanation tonight for meeting with lavrov. putin asked him to. back now with my panel. so liz, in response to that criticism about the meeting that weave been discussing, president trump had this to say in the interview. >> i have to speak with putin also. it's called russia, but when i
spoke with putin he asked me whether or not i would see lavrov. now, should i say no, i'm not going to see him? i said, i will see him. >> so this whole russia thing is going on. the comey thing is going on. the michael flynn thing is going on, you know, carter page, on and on and on. he's the president of the united states. he can do what he wants. does he have to act on putin's request? >> he can do what he wants and he acted apparently on putin's request and did meet with lavrov but what's interesting is what happened when he had met with lavrov. we saw the photos there that we only saw, thanks to russian media since our media was blocked out, the media that he dubs fake news which that's another parallel that we have to draw between trump and putin. they are both pioneers of fake news. >> well, the news certainly faked him out yesterday because
they got those pictures. sfa and he seemed shocked. he says russia lies. have you been paying attention to foreign policy or, you know, the meddling in our election or any of that? i mean, it's -- it's really -- it's really quite remarkable. >> jack, i want to ask you, why is he so concerned about, you know, what putin has to say? i've got to meet with putin. he doesn't have to meet with anyone in the oval office. >> i agree and from early on in the dam pain, you know, there's a -- there's a level of clue esness, nooaivety and this is astounding coming from the president of the united states just to -- to -- to not understand that he's playing chess with a queen down, because -- and you foe, apparently he doesn't listen to his own folks. that's why i was saying earlier
on, the wheels are coming off. i'm getting a little bit concerned and i'm being very -- i'm taking very low key approach. >> no, why are you concerned? >> well, what i said. it's just -- you know, this is how -- you know, this is our leader who doesn't seem to really know what's going on, and you know, i'm not blaming him for the security lapse and the -- and the white house. however, why doesn't he fire those people? because you know, if you're being duped by an adversary and you have people who were in charge of you know, this -- he's so good at saying you're fired, why didn't he fire those people? >> yeah, i have to ask you and let's talk more about now the investigation in the senate. the fbi director -- acting fub
director's testimony. where do you think we stand on this investigation now that comey has been fired? >> well, andrew made some very reassuring comments today during this hearing about how they will continue this investigation uninterrupted, that they -- that he seems to feel that they have adequate resources to do it and they will pursue a vigorous and independent type of investigation. in the meantime there was a white house statement today which sort of cast a little bit of ambiguity on that because what they said was one of the reasons -- they felt that as a result of having fired the fbi director, somehow that would hasten the conclusion of this investigation. and that kind of strips away some of the pretense around this decision and seems to indicate that the white house thinks there's some quick way of expediting it and getting it done and that would obviously -- that doesn't reflect the reality that this investigation is going to continue to take quite some
time. so his statement on the hill was reassuring and he -- he -- there was a great colloquy with members of the senate intelligence committee who all said well, please, inform the fbi officials who are conducting this investigation that they cannot be fired, that they will not be fired and that we -- we have their backs. and then beyond that, senators warner and burr also had a press conference today stating that they plan to continue with their senate investigation. they met separately with rod rosenstein to discuss the logistics of that and they also issued their first subpoena yesterday, and they are gearing up to have a series of closed door hearings. so i think the investigations are -- are on track, both the fbi and the senate and even the house. >> yeah, should we have confidence in that, liz? do you think -- you worked for rtv and i'm wondering how the russians are looking at this and
even in our own country, our people and if they have confidence. >> i think how the russians are looking at this is that right now they're laughing just the way that lavrov laughed at our own press when he said oh, was comey fired? but reportedly trump had fired comey because there was so much focus on russia. the focus is ultra focused now and it's great to see that everybody has awoken. >> and here we are. we may have been covering other stories tonight but now we're covering russia 24/7. thank you all, have a good night. see you right back here tomorrow. . . . . (voiceover) if your child is
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the president took strong and decisive leadership here. >> he took the recommend of rod rosenstein. >> he made the decision? >> i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. >> donald trump contradicting let alone with the timeline with the fbi director james comey. good morning. welcome to "early start." i'm dave briggs. >> i'm christine romans. it is friday, may 12th. 4:00 a.m. in the east. let's begin with the confusion and contradiction from the white